Redesigning retail for new generation shoppers

As a Turkish American who now lives in China, Senem Cennetoglu is true “east-meets-west.” And more. 
courtesy of Senem Cennetoglu

Who is she? 

As a Turkish American who now lives in China, Senem Cennetoglu is true “east-meets-west.” And more.

Born and raised in Turkey and moved to United States for her education in 2004. After she graduated from a MBA program in New York, she moved to Los Angeles and worked for the late architect, Jon A. Jerde. 

Since September 2012 she’s been living and working in Shanghai. 

She joined Retail Design Collaborative in November 2016, a more than 37-year-old award0winning US architecture firm focussing primarily on retail and mixed-use projects, a company that represents the new era of retail. 

Tell us some of your works, and which one are you most proud of?

Our goal is to turn everyday places into extraordinary experiences, position the retail realm for human interaction. Our depth and excellence in all aspects of retail allow us to take a holistic approach when designing the retail experience. 

We are very excited about a recent development, where we created an urban oasis that covers 70,000 square meters in an underground retail complex. In the middle of Tianjin City, we created a public park that is bigger than Bryant Park in NYC. 

Describe your design style. 

I do what the site tells me. I observe the patterns and study the habits of the people. I am most satisfied when the end product is of that place, can only succeed in that specific setting, yet still offers a strong impact. 

I believe when one gets to be known for a particular style, he/she falls short on the commitment. I am more comfortable when I provide a design that complements its surroundings rather than stands out.

Where are you most creative? 

I enjoy being surrounded by creative people. This could be a sophisticated client who appreciates the design process; it could be exchanging our ideas with my team during a charrette (brainstorming meeting), or an artist’s way of expressing his/her art. 

Collaboration is my true ecstasy. The alignment between the designer and the client is the key and I thrive when I cultivate that vibe.

What does your home mean to you? 

Home is a direct reflection of one’s soul. 

My home is where I gather memories, with my friends and family. It’s the place where I find peace and rest my mind.  

What do you collect? 

Art! Not necessarily the expensive mainstream pieces, on the contrary I like supporting emerging artists, any form of genuine art that triggers my emotions. I truly develop a bond with each piece I select and the artists themselves.

I also got my hands on some Chinese antiques as reminders of my time here, but other than that I am adapting ways to minimize my consumption of tangible goods.

Where do you like to go most in Shanghai?

Shanghai has a lot of layers, and I’d like to take it all in as much as I can. What I enjoy most is hopping on a shared bicycle to enjoy the city and its offerings. 

From the Bund to the tree-covered streets of the city center, the breeze by Suzhou creek, exciting adoptive re-use projects pop up left and right; gorgeous art deco buildings, and many other hidden treasures. In this metropolis every turn is full of surprises. 

What will be the next big design trend?

Retail as we know it is experiencing some radical changes. Floor Area Ratio-driven developments are over. The new generation demands a lot more from their retail experience; they want to create memories that are socially, economically and environmentally valued. They admire originality, they care about their community.

The developers and architects now have to consider the strong relationship between the spatial design and consumer behavior. Brick and mortar will always live, however the authenticity of the place, how it speaks to the community will be the significant lead to bring success.

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